Though the virtual reality experiment didn't change learning outcomes overall, the researchers found that students with more video game experience learned better using VR than those with little video game experience -- a finding that correlated closely with gender.
The study -- which has new implications as learning around the world shifts online to combat the spread of coronavirus -- aimed to take a step toward determining whether new educational technology tactics, while popular, are actually effective.
"There's been a big push for enhanced technology in classrooms," Madden said. "I think we can be in awe of these fancy, shiny devices and it might feel like they're helping, but we need to know if they actually are."
There are more than 230 companies working on virtual reality products.
Males were far more likely to have video game experience, the survey found, and also learned more in the VR simulation, suggesting that either gender or prior video game experience could impact the success of VR-based learning. Reviewing prior work, the researchers found that video games requiring players to navigate 3D spaces are more popular among males than females.
"This is an interesting finding, because it could potentially imply that if you can provide learners with that experience, then you could show broad benefits from immersive learning," said co-author Andrea Stevenson Won, assistant professor of communication and director of the Virtual Embodiment Lab at Cornell. "However, more study is definitely needed."
"If you're unfamiliar with navigating this kind of 3D space, you're not going to learn as well in it, so that could be a barrier," Madden said. "One of the conclusions of our work is that we need to do a better job of asking questions around things that might be gendered, like video game experience. There's a lot of finer detail you need to know to make VR learning successful."
The study's co-authors are Natasha Holmes, the Ann S. Bower Assistant Professor in A&S Jonathon Schuldt, associate professor of communication; and communication doctoral students Swati Pandita and Byungdoo Kim. The research was supported by Oculus Education.
As per the study conducted by Forbes on World’s Most Valuable Brands in October 2015, showed that 75% of these industries have created some form of virtual reality or augmented reality experience for customers or are the ones developing the technologies.